The July 4 weekend is always one of the biggest of the year for the UFC as the organization calls it International Fight Week. This week in Las Vegas, the UFC has a Hall of Fame induction ceremony and the finale of the 25th season of “The Ultimate Fighter” series – you can bet on that too. It’s all topped off by UFC 213 at T-Mobile Arena on Saturday night as Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko stage a rematch for Nunes’ bantamweight title.
The five-fight main card is expected to begin at 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view. Here’s a look at those bouts and their Sports Interaction MMA odds.
Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko
Records: Nunes (14-4), Shevchenko (14-2)
Division: Women’s bantamweight
UFC Odds: Nunes -115, Shevchenko -115
Prediction: Nunes by KO/TKO
It’s important to remember that UFC title fights are scheduled for five rounds. Important especially in this case because when these two fought at UFC 196 in March 2016, it was only three rounds. Most everyone agrees that Nunes was the better fighter early on but that Shevchenko, who was the slight betting favourite, took control late and dominated the final round. Speculation is that Shevchenko would have won had it been five rounds, but Nunes took a unanimous decision.
The “Lioness” is from Brazil and on a five-fight winning streak overall. She won the bantamweight title over Miesha Tate four months after the Shevchenko fight by first-round submission and then defended it with a 48-second wipeout (TKO by punches) of former women’s pound-for-pound queen Ronda Rousey in December. That was such a thorough beating that Rousey has since retired.
Shevchenko is also 2-0 since the first fight, beating Holly Holm – the first woman to beat Rousey – by unanimous decision last July and then Julianna Pena in January by submission. “Bullet” gives up three inches of height and two inches of reach to Nunes.
Yoel Romero vs. Robert Whittaker
Records: Romero (12-1), Whittaker (18-4)
UFC Odds: Whittaker -140, Romero +110
Prediction: Romero by KO/TKO
The co-main event is for the interim middleweight title. Canadian MMA fans know that current middleweight champion Michael Bisping was supposed to fight Georges St-Pierre in GSP’s comeback bout, but that bout was called off in May because Bisping was dealing with a knee injury and GSP an eye problem that will sideline him until November.
UFC president Dana White said the promotion could no longer hold up the division while waiting for St-Pierre to return to action. Because Bisping still isn’t ready to fight, either, White created an interim title – with Bisping set to fight the winner of this one unless the GSP fight is back on. In fact, Bisping has said GSP has until Saturday to agree to terms because Bisping will announce his next fight against either Romero or Whittaker with the winner afterward Saturday.
Romero, from Cuba, has won his past eight and is the No. 1 contender in the division. He knocked out former champion Chris Weidman last November. Whittaker, an Aussie, is on a seven-fight winning streak and is ranked No. 3.
Daniel Omielanczuk vs. Curtis Blaydes
Records: Omielanczuk (19-7-1), Blaydes (7-1)
UFC Odds: Blaydes -790, Omielanczuk +495
Prediction: Blaydes by TKO
Omielanczuk is ranked 15th in the division by the UFC, but the Polish big man has dropped back-to-back fights: a split decision to Timothy Johnson in March and a second-round submission against Stefan Struve in October. Six of Omielanczuk’s losses are by decision.
The American Blaydes is just 26 and a giant at 6-foot-4, 265 pounds. He dominated Adam Milstead by second-round TKO in February but then had that win overturned after Blaydes tested positive for marijuana. He was also suspended for 90 days. All eight of Blaydes’ fights, including against Milstead, have ended by a TKO result.
Fabricio Werdum vs. Alistair Overeem
Records: Werdum (21-6-1), Overeem (42-15)
UFC Odds: Overeem -135, Werdum +105
Prediction: Overeem by decision
It’s two heavyweight legends on the tail end of their careers fighting for the third time. Werdum, ranked the No. 1 contender in the division, is 39. He won the heavyweight belt in November 2014 with a victory over Mark Hunt and defended it with a submission victory over Cain Velasquez in June 2015. Werdum lost the belt to current champion Stipe Miocic in May 2016 by first-round knockout. The Brazilian was last in the Octagon in September with a unanimous decision win over Travis Browne.
Overeem is 37 and ranked third. He lost to Miocic in a title fight last September but bounced back with a win over Hunt in March. The winner here might get a shot at the title again. Werdum submitted Overeem in 2006 in a PRIDE fight, but Overeem won by decision in 2011 during the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix.
Anthony Pettis vs. Jim Miller
Records: Pettis (19-6), Miller (28-9)
UFC Odds: Pettis -240, Miller +180
Prediction: Pettis by submission
Pettis won the UFC lightweight title in 2013 with a submission victory over Benson Henderson and successfully defended the belt against Gilbert Melendez the following year. However, Pettis then lost it to Rafael dos Anjos and counting that fight is 1-4 in his past five. He moved to featherweight briefly (two fights) and failed to make weight for a title fight against Max Holloway in December, had to give up 20 per cent of his purse and then lost by TKO.
Pettis, who thought he had broken his hand early vs. Holloway, is currently the No. 6 lightweight as he returns to the division. Miller had a three-fight winning streak snapped in February with a majority decision loss to Dustin Poirier.